Federal Direct Stafford Loans

The U.S. Department of Education offers eligible students at participating schools Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans to help cover the cost of higher education. Some people refer to these loans as Stafford Loans or Direct Stafford Loans. Direct Subsidized Loans have slightly better terms to help out students with financial need.

Direct Subsidized Loans

Federal Direct Subsidized Loans are offered to undergraduate and credential students based on demonstrated financial need. The interest on the loan is paid by the Department of Education as long as the student maintains half-time enrollment (6 units); or during the 6 months grace period*, or if the student has not exceeded his or her maximum time frame**.

*Grace period: Students who received a Direct Subsidized loan that was first disbursed between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2014, are responsible for paying interest that accrues during the grace period. If you choose not to pay the interest that accrues during your grace period, the interest will be added to your principal balance.

**Maximum time frame: If you are a first-time borrower on or after July 1, 2013, there is a limit on the maximum period of time (measured in academic years) that you can receive Direct Subsidized loans. This limit does not apply to Direct Unsubsidized loans or Direct PLUS loans.

If this limit applies, you may not receive Direct Subsidized loans for more than 150 percent of the published length of your program. This is called your "maximum eligibility period." Your maximum eligibility period is based on the published length of your current program. You can find the published length of your program in the school catalog.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are offered to all eligible undergraduate and graduate students, even those not demonstrating financial need. The Direct Unsubsidized Loan should be borrowed cautiously, since the borrower will be responsible for paying all the interest on the loan.  

Interest will begin accruing after the first disbursement, even though payment is not required until six months after graduating or dropping below half-time status. Interest-only payments may be made while in school, but it is not required.

If interest is not paid while in school, the interest is capitalized (added to the original loan amount) once repayment begins.

Acceptance Deadlines

2020-21 deadlines to accept loans:

  • December 1, 2020: For students attending Fall 2020 only
  • April 26, 2021: For full academic year loan(s) or Spring 2021 only


  • Repayment begins six months after graduation or after enrollment drops below half time.
  • Federal student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy.

Additional Information

  • To retrieve loan history information, go to the Federal Student Aid website.
  • Learn about Enrollment Requirements for disbursement of financial aid.
  • Find additional information about interest rates, origination fees, annual and maximum loan amounts and more on the Loans page.